Community development, environmental restoration, and educational reform must go hand in hand.
We seek partnerships among advocates for each in order to combine forces and resources. We believe that youth have a crucial role to play in this process. This conviction comes from three decades of work in low-income communities on projects that simultaneously address issues of poverty, race, deteriorated neighborhoods, polluted water, and troubled schools.
West Philadelphia Landscape Project
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Mill Creek Summer Program
In summer 1997 and 1998, WPLP staff, Aspen Farms Community Gardeners, and teachers at Sulzberger Middle School offered a four-week summer program for sixth and seventh graders. Students learned about the Mill Creek Watershed, designed and built projects in the garden, and learned web-authoring. Many students brought their families to Aspen Farms for the first time.

Summer 1997: Ask Me About Mill Creek

View Student Work: SMS News 1997

The morning was split between time at the school and time at Aspen Farms Community Garden, a block away. All the participants wore blue T-shirts, with the words ASK ME ABOUT MILL CREEK on the back. People did ask the students to tell them about Mill Creek.

Indoor activities included making a topographical model of the neighborhood around the school, mapping watersheds, and an introduction to creating webpages using HTML. The students discussed the value of trees in the city and designed a street tree nursery for their school grounds after a visit from Mindy Maslin of Philadelphia Green. The group also designed a miniature golf course on vacant land near the school, where each hole represented an event in the history of Mill Creek. The group went on a field trip to a miniature golf course in Rosyln, PA.

Outdoor activities at Aspen Farms included several construction projects to create an outdoor classroom for Sulzberger's science class. The projects included installing a small pond with aquatic plants, a butterfly house and butterfly garden, and a vegetable plot with a compost bin.

On the last day of the program, the group took a bus trip that traced the Mill Creek from the school to the Schuylkill River and met Joe Serrone from the Philadelphia Water Department. They also visited Bartram's Garden on the Schuylkill River to view a wetland reclamation project.

WPLP Project Director Martin Knox, assisted by WPLP staff Yu-Ting Lee, led the four-week summer program for four Sulzberger teachers and a dozen middle-school students. Hayward Ford, President of Aspen Farms and Jeff Myers of the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society also assisted. Sam Spirn, WPLP Webmaster taught the sessions on HTML code and web design.

Junior counselors Tyshara Owen and Justin Parrish, who had participated in the Mill Creek Project as part of Glenn Campbell's eighth grade class, helped with the program in the morning and worked on SMS News at the University of Pennsylvania computer lab in the afternoons.

In the afternoon, former WPLP Webmaster Robert Cheetham taught a compuer workshop for the four teachers from Sulzberger: Barabara Wells, Donald Armstead, Larry Jones, and Glenn Campbell.

SMS News View Project

Summer 1998

View Student Work: SMS News 1998

In its second year, the WPLP/SMS/Aspen Farms Summer Program increased in size from twelve students in 1997 to fifty students in 1998. Children attending the program studied a variety of subjects led by WPLP staff and Sulzberger teachers.

The students split the three-hour morning session in two out of six subject areas: Aspen Farm Garden, Mill Creek History, Watersheds and Wetlands, ֠Computers, Conflict Resolution, and Entrepreneurship.

At Aspen Farms, under the supervision of Hayward Ford, the children from the summer program helped weed, painted fences and clean up the garden.

The Mill Creek History section focused on a brief history of the neighborhood. In the Watershed and Wetlands section, students learned about the series of larger watersheds to which Mill Creek belongs and about the animals and plants which live in wetlands. They built topographic models with clay and visited the John Heinz Wildlife Refuge.

In the computer class, the kids learned basic skills in HTML, Netscape, Adobe Photoshop, and Microsoft Word.

The Conflict Resolution class taught the kids productive ways to solve conflicts, and was also used as a forum to discuss problems at home, and and in the Entrepreneurial section, students learned how to create a business plan.

The SMS teachers involved were Glenn Campbell, Barbara Wells, Larry Jones, Donald Armstead, Crystale Roye, and Erika Stewart. The WPLP staff were Sam Spirn, Danielle Floyd, Kevin Smith, and Kamni Gill. The National School and Community Corps also helped out, and were designated as team leaders for the five different groups of students. They were led by Warren Bell.

Junior counselors Fatima Williams and Rasean Frazier, who had participated in the Mill Creek Project as part of Glenn Campbell's eighth grade class, helped with the program in the morning and worked on SMS News at the University of Pennsylvania computer lab in the afternoons.

SMS News View Project

Summer 2001: The Watershed

In summer 2001, the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) took on the summer program. PWD staff worked with with Sulzberger teachers on a watershed program where Sulzberger students helped design and build The Watershed, an outdoor classroom demonstration project to detain stormwater on a vacant lot across the street from the school.